Archive for June, 2012

Calling all cat lovers

This will be my last post as Star Author for the month. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself! For my final blog, I thought I’d chat a little about my next book and see what you think. I’ve just started writing it, and like many of my books it was inspired by my pets – namely, two little kittens named Lil and Luci (pic below).

 Luci is an SPCA rescue cat and Lili is a purebred Burmilla. They adore each other and spend most of their time playing together and getting into mischief. Watching them one day, I thought about a story based around cats. It’s a modern-day adventure about a girl who finds a stray cat ‑ a knotted and bedraggled longhaired cat. She’s not allowed to keep her, so she works up the courage to take the stray to an “odd” woman who lives in her neighbourhood. She’s an eccentric lady, lives in a house surrounded by hordes of rescue cats. The kids in the neighbourhood are scared of her, imagining she’s a witch, of course! Some weird things happen, but I won’t give away too much away and the story may change as I write anyway. Sometimes the characters take over!

 Thanks for taking the time to read my posts. If you’d like to meet some of my animal friends and read more about my books don’t forget to visit my website or pop into my Facebook author page.


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Some fun writing rules

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. I was lucky enough to see the comedian Lenny Henry on Sunday night, which was a lot of fun. I’m still in a light mood, so thought I’d share some fun rules on writing. The biggest part of a writer’s life is checking and rechecking work for grammatical mistakes and other errors. I have a fun list next to my computer screen which helps me with this. Here are some pointers:

 1.        Don’t abbrev.

2.         Check to see if you any words out.

3.         Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.

4.         Don’t use no double negatives.

5.         Just between you and I, case is important.

6.         Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.

7.         Its important to use apostrophe’s right.

8.         It’s better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.

9.         Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop

10.       Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

11.       Avoid unnecessary redundancy.

12.       A writer mustn’t shift your point of view.

13.       Don’t write a run-on sentence you’ve got to punctuate it.

14.       A preposition isn’t a good thing to end a sentence with.

15.       Avoid cliches like the plague.

16.       1 final thing is to never start a sentence with a number.

17.       Always check your work for accuracy and completeness.


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Cool stories to discover at Story Cloud

There is a cool new website that’s just been launched in the UK where you can read, listen to and download a new story from a different author every Monday.  It’s called Story Cloud and it runs from 18 June to 3 September.

To read the stories you click on one of the icons and choose to read or listen to the story.  Then go and find the surprises in the pictures and see the challenges and tasks for you to write your own story. 

This week’s story is called The Talent Show, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Kristyna  Litten.  Check it out now at

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The Witch, the Wardrobe and the What?

I read about a study carried out recently which found that fewer children these days know about famous characters from classic children’s books. When questioned, some kids thought Aslan was a giraffe and that the wardrobe led to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Very few had heard of Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Jemima Puddleduck, or Pippi Longstocking.

The study suggested the characters are unknown due to the rise of TV and video games. But interestingly, only half had heard of Harry Potter despite being the star of hit movies! I’d love to know from you avid readers out there if you’ve heard of these characters, and what are some of your own favourites from classic books? I’ve always loved Heidi, and now I have a goat herd of my own I can play at rounding goats up on the hills…


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Join our Winter Reading Club

Winter Reading Club is a fun reading challenge that you can take part in throughout the June and July.  From Monday 18 June you can visit your local library and pick up your challenge card.  Just complete four challenges and you will get a mini prize pack.

Find out how to enter the Winter Reading Club – Read the rest of this entry »

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Al Capone and the seven basic plots

I live on a small farm with my horses and many others pets. I recently bought another horse whose name is Al Capone. He’s a beautiful jet-black boy with a small white star and looks to me more like Black Beauty than Al Capone! But his name really intrigued me. I knew that Al Capone was an infamous American gangster back in 1920s Chicago. I looked him up in the library and found out all these fascinating facts about him and suddenly I had an idea for a historical novel rattling around in my head.

But before I got carried away, I thought I should check first that other stories hadn’t already been written about him. I discovered that quite a few children’s books have indeed been based around him, including one intriguing title called Al Capone Does My Shirts! So I decided not to write this story as it’s already been done.

Then I remembered reading an article once about how all stories can be reduced down to seven basic plots:

1. Rags to Riches

2. The Quest (I thought about my own The Drover’s Quest)

3. Voyage and Return

4. Comedy

5. Tragedy

6. Rebirth

7. Overcoming the Monster (I thought about my own Saving Sam)

What makes stories unique is how the authors tell them. So, even if a hundred books have been written on Al Capone, so long as I approach the idea with a fresh and interesting angle it really doesn’t matter. Think of the books you’ve read lately – can you fit them into the seven basic plots above?

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Our War Horse, Bess


Have any of you seen the recent film The War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s brilliant novel? I still haven’t worked up the courage to go and see it because I know it will upset me too much. The main reason is that not long ago I researched and wrote the true story of New Zealand’s very own war horse, Bess.

During World War One, New Zealand sent over 10,000 horses to fight in the war. But unlike the war horses in the film, most of our horses were sent to the Middle East to fight in the desert. They took the men into battle and had to face searing heat, thirst, hunger, and weariness but they never failed their masters. Of all the horses that served throughout the entire war in the Middle East, only one came home. Her name was Bess.

 I read many of the diaries and letters of the soldiers, called Mounted Riflemen, who rode, lived, and sometimes died with their horses and it was very moving. They became very attached to their horses because they shared so much. I’ve heard the film is moving too; did any of you see it?



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